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Andrew Topf

Andrew Topf

With over a decade of journalistic experience working in newspapers, trade publications and as a mining reporter, Andrew Topf is a seasoned business writer. Andrew also…

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The World’s 10 Biggest Energy Gluttons

The World’s 10 Biggest Energy Gluttons

Next time you get into your car and drive to the supermarket, think about how much energy you consume on an annual basis. It is widely assumed that Westerners are some of the world’s worst energy pigs. While Americans make up just 5 percent of the global population, they use 20 percent of its energy, eat 15 percent of its meat, and produce 40 percent of the earth’s garbage.

Europeans and people in the Middle East, it turns out, aren't winning any awards for energy conservation, either.

Oilprice.com set out to discover which countries use the most energy and why.

Related: Why Energy Efficiency Is The Most Important Fuel We Didn’t Know We Had

While some of the guilty parties are obvious, others may surprise you. A note about the figures: we used kilograms of oil equivalent (koe) per capita, which refers to the amount of energy that can be extracted from one kilogram of crude oil. “Koe per capita” can be used to compare energy from different sources, including fossil fuels and renewables, and does here. The numbers represent the most recent data available from the World Bank.
World Development Indicators
(Image Source:  Oilprice.com)

1.    Iceland - 18,774 kg. Yes, that’s right, Iceland. Of all the countries in the world, including the richest and largest oil producers, Iceland consumes the most energy per person. How can that be? The reason is basically overabundance. With most of Iceland’s energy coming from hydroelectric and geothermal power, Icelanders are some of the planet’s least energy-conscious. Click here for a fascinating video of why the Nordic nation uses so much energy.

2.    Qatar – 17,418 kg. Qataris are addicted to oil. According to National Geographic, the population is provided with free electricity and water, which has been described as “liquid electricity” because it is often produced through desalination, a very energy-intensive process. Qatar's per capita emissions are the highest in the world, and three times that of the United States.

3.    Trinidad and Tobago – 15,691 kg. Trinidad and Tobago is one of the richest countries in the Caribbean, and the region's leading producer of oil and gas; it houses one of the largest natural gas processing facilities in the Western Hemisphere. T&T is the largest LNG exporter to the United States. Its electricity sector is entirely fueled by natural gas.

4.    Kuwait – 10,408 kg. Despite holding the sixth-largest oil reserves in the world, and an estimated 63 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, the demand for electricity in Kuwait often outstrips supply. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Kuwait is perpetually in electricity supply shortage and experiences frequent blackouts each summer. The country has become a net importer of natural gas to address the imbalance.

5.    Brunei – 9,427 kg. The tiny sultanate on the island of Borneo, apart from being a substantial producer and exporter of oil and natural gas to Asia, is also a habitual power hog. The nation of roughly half a million has the region's highest number of cars per capita. Brunei also subsidizes both vehicle fuel and electricity, which is sold to the public at below-market prices.

6.    Luxembourg – 7,684 kg. Landlocked Luxembourg is almost totally dependent on energy imports, mostly oil and gas. Energy consumption has increased 32 percent since 1990, with transportation responsible for 60 percent of the intake, according to an EU fact sheet.

7.    United Arab Emirates – 7,407 kg. Nothing says conspicuous energy consumption like Ski Dubai. The indoor resort featuring an 85-meter-high mountain of man-made snow burns the equivalent of 3,500 barrels of oil a day. The World Resource Institute estimates the UAE uses 481 tonnes of oil equivalent to produce $1 million of GDP, compared to Norway's 172 tonnes.

Related: Africa and Belgium Generate the Same Amount of Electricity – But That’s Changing

8.    Canada – 7,333 kg. Oh, Canada. Kind, peace-loving Canadians certainly love their cars, along with space heaters, hot tubs and other energy-sucking toys. But while many equate Canada's energy sector with the oil sands, it is, in fact, other forms of energy that account for the lion's share of consumption. EcoSpark published a pie chart showing over half (57.6 percent) of Canada's electricity comes from hydro, with coal the second most popular choice at 18 percent. Nuclear is third (14.6 percent), with oil and gas comprising just 6.3 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.


9.    United States – 6,793 kg. As the world's largest economy and richest nation, the U.S. should obviously be included as a top 10 energy glutton. However, one puzzling fact is that despite annual economic growth, per-capita U.S. energy consumption has remained around the same level since the 1970s. According to the EIA, one explanation is that the U.S. has simply shifted the energy required to satisfy greater consumption to manufacturing centers offshore.

10.    Finland – 6,183 kg. With over a third of its territory above the Arctic Circle, a cold climate, sparse population and a highly industrialized economy, it is no wonder that Finland is among the highest per-capita energy users in Europe. However, according to the International Energy Agency, Finland plans to diversify its economy away from carbon-based fuels, through a shift to renewables, including biomass, and has approved construction of two new nuclear plants.

By Andrew Topf of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Tim Bilsky on September 30 2014 said:
    So, all the critics can quit harping on the U.S.'s obscene "gluttony" now. Truthfully, I'm fine with Iceland's consumption. If they have the resources, and use them, in part, to generate revenue and better their standard of living, what's there to argue?
  • Philip Branton on September 30 2014 said:
    Way to go Tim Blisky........BRAVO..!!

    The way that video link explained ICELAND's gluttony was a classic example of MASS Media Info Psyops and manipulation..!! Just think....if this video was redone to compare how many Iceland citizens DIE for geo-thermal heat compared to how many people are getting killed in the Middle EAST for OIL...and Pipelines......and resource poaching...!!!

    LOL......and did you get a load of the sponsors for PLANET Forward..? They are the same sponsors for BLOOD for OIL...!!

    Dare to wonder what would happen if there was a treaty that resulted in each country having to use its OWN energy resources and not a foreign energy resource...? Talk about a job creator..!! Talk about real innovative solutions..!! Geez, just look how this very website would become even MORE valuable...!?
  • Mark Davison on September 30 2014 said:
    Not only do Icelanders consume more energy than Americans, they consume nearly 3 times more energy than Americans!
  • Peter Harlen on October 01 2014 said:
    Pretty silly measurement. Iceland top. Yeah, but it's almost all renewable. And they need more as it's bloody cold. I notice Finland is let off the hook because it's a cold country. Well, so is Iceland. Again, Canada at 8th., but over half from clean renewable hydro.
    Sorry, but this may list be factually correct, but it means very little (the old 'lies, damned lies & statistics', eh).
  • Tim Bilsky on October 02 2014 said:
    To Philip Branton:

    Yes! Because this website is not too valuable right now.
  • Dan Hill on October 02 2014 said:
    I find this article a little biased.. The truth is this: The coldest countries use the most energy! Understandable. But, interestingly enough, they also use the most renewable energy as well.

    Therefore, you cannot equate this to oil usage. It is simply not true.

    Furthermore, Canada ships a lot of Oil and Natural Gas to the United States. And Canadian Electricity is also sent to the United States. So, realistically, who is the end user?

    Food for thought here.
  • Andrew Topf on October 02 2014 said:
    Peter and Dan:
    You seem to have a problem with the measurement I used: kilograms of oil equivalent per capita. It's a standardized international measure of energy intensity used by the World Bank, IEA and others. If you feel better about converting the numbers to gigajoules, we can do that. Ie. 1 kilogram of oil = 41,868 kilojoules. It doesn't matter whether the country burns oil, used hydro, or geothermal, it can all be broken down to kilograms of oil equivalent. As for the contention that cold countries use the most energy, if that's the case, why aren't Russia, Norway, Sweden ahead of the Southern countries on the list?

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